The living room has traditionally been the largest room in the house, the place where people entertained, watched television and spent time with family. But with the advent of “Great Rooms” and “family rooms”, the living room has become something other than it was, though, in many households, it is still used for more formal occasions.
Once called the “drawing room” because it was the place to which dinner guests withdrew to talk, have brandy, and for the men, to smoke, the living room has served many purposes. Later it was called the parlor, and it was where tea was served and also where wakes were held. (hence the phrase “funeral parlor”). Then it was called the sitting room, for somewhat obvious reasons, but it was still a more formal place, though friends and family did gather there. In some areas of the UK it is still referred to as the sitting room, especially in older houses.
The term “living room” referred to something a bit more informal, but it remained the place where guests gathered to talk, be entertained, drink, and socialize. Families often kept their TV’s in the living room and that was where they came together to spend quality time.
Nowadays, family rooms and great rooms have usurped the living room’s primary functions, being the places where people gather, where entertainment systems are, and where most of a family’s “living time” is spent. So what has happened to the living room? Well, as even formal rooms are less formal than they used to be, living rooms are being turned into large breakfast nooks and home offices, often serving more than one function. A large living room can be partitioned off into more than one room and many different activities can be done.
The living room has served its purpose well. But its day as the place to hang out is over. Many newer homes don’t even have anything equivalent to a formal living room. But the living room will never completely disappear from the American landscape. In some homes it will always the be the place where the family lives.